This article, featuring Mike's Electric Stuff appeared in HiFi News magazine, October 1998 issue, p.77. Oddly, they omitted to mention the only hi-fi related item on the site, the CD Jukebox!
One of the tesla coil pictures they featured is actually from the Arcstarter's page, not mine!
Copyright notice : The text below is copyright HiFi News magazine and/or Stuart Perry.
As they didn't ask me for permission to reproduce my pictures in their magazine (I don't mind, but it would have been nice to have been asked), I'll assume they won't mind me reproducing their text on my website without asking :-)
Even if your teacher never connected you to the mains, you could be turned on by some of the world's most spectacular tubes!
By Stuart Perry
Hands up all those who, like me, drool over 'big' valve amps with huge glowing 211 or 845 triodes with HT supplies of 1000V or more, thinking that they are the ultimate in the awesome stakes. Well, I've stumbled upon a web site which will make you realise that it's time to get out of the short trousers! Before I describe what is surely the sexiest site on the net for us soldering iron junkies, I must pre-empt it with the serious message -- do not try this at home!
It all started when I was looking up information on live music in London for a friend who had come to stay. If you are want to finding out about live bands in the Capital then I can recommend [site no longer exists] This site,'More! Live Music in London', is provided courtesy of Mike Harrison, and it contains just about everything you could want to know about bands, venues and recordings.
However, at the bottom of the screen, in small print, the words 'Ever wondered what happens if you put a couple of hundred thousand volts through a CD! Find out here!' grabbed my attention. I clicked my mouse on the link and it took me to the site 'Mike's Electric Stuff' This is where the fun begins -- if you have access to the internet then you simply have to visit this site and explore it in detail. It turns out Mike is also an authoritative enthusiast about all things that glow and spark!
Witness, if you dare, his experiments with Tesla Coils, special circular transformers which generate hundreds of thousands of volts from the mains supply. Seems that, in his spare time, Mike slips away to his garage and spectacularly 'fries' old compact discs, surplus oscilloscope tubes, and even scrap laptop computer displays. Because a Tesla Coil generates such a high voltage, any objects placed in its path will encourage a series of electrical 'arcs' to form, much like a localised lightning storm.
Mike also catalogues and collects electrical items, specifically historical valves and other similar devices. If you think a 211 triode is hairy, then have a look at Mike's mercury arc rectifiers -- glass valves which convert AC to DC at power levels of several thousand watts!
On Mike's site you can also learn about early valves, such as the fascinating Loewe 3NF Multivalve. This device was invented in 1926 to overcome the German tax'per-valve' on radio receivers. Loewe decided to build three individual triodes and a handful of other passive components into a single glass bulb, such that they could then claim to produce a 'one valve radio' and hence offer it at a far lower price than the competition. Voila - the world's first integrated circuit predates semiconductors by 30 years!
It it surprising to discover the sheer number of outwardly normal people who, despite conventional 'day jobs', spend their leisure time experimenting with electronics and becoming authorities on practical design. I have a theory as to why this should be, and it all revolves around having had a memorable 'hands-on' education in early life. When I was a teenager at school, were taught physics largely by practical demonstrations, many of which have now been deemed far too dangerous under the latest health and safety regulations, so modern kids are denied those unforgettable character-forming experiences. I will never forget what I learned in the classroom, especially the day that my physics master demonstrated the fact that resistances in series cause the applied voltage to be divided pro-rata across them. He asked 20 of us to form a human chain holding hands, and proceeded to connect us up to the mains!
He then took his trusty AVO meter and measured the voltage across each of us in turn, which was, as near as dammit, only 12 volts each (240 volts shared across 20 people, each of us being a 'human resistor') which explained why none of us was electrocuted. Now, that's what I call one helluva way to learn Ohm's Law, and so it's no wonder my generation is fascinated by the idea of experimenting with natural phenomena.
Mike is one of those guys who likes to open up electronic gadgets, take a peek inside, then put them back together. He takes a real anatomical interest in the way machines work. He also has a huge collection of antique glass valves, neon lamps, Geissler tubes, Tesla coils, and Weston cells. He explains how each component works, who invented them, what they're made of, and how you can take them apart. He also includes a diagram of his home audio/video setup that reads like a London Underground map.
"The Family Site of the Day was created to highlight other web sites that produce quality content appropriate for family viewing and participation." I'm not sure to what extent high voltage stuff is 'appropriate for family viewing'..... - MH.
Over the past century, electricity and electronics have changed the way we live, both by the devices that were invented, and how they were used. We put men on the moon, and movies on a small silver disk. In between there are thousands of other devices that were invented and created. Today's FamSite looks at a site that features some of the building blocks that made those inventions possible.
The site is called Mike's Electric Stuff, and is a site that is dedicated to nuts and bolts of basic electronics and electricity. Here you can find out about spark gap and triggered gap tubes, nixie tubes, tesla coils, and neodymium magnets. This site has guided tours of all these items and more. The information here is fascinating, something for anyone who is interested in how things work, and why. Of special interest is the old calculator section, where you can view some of the first calculators ever made, and who cost as much as some full size computers do today. (..well .not quite! MH)
This is a great site for techno-geeks and armchair electronic wizards. It is also a valuable resource as a reference for older electronic components. This site would be a valuable one to bookmark. Enjoy your stop here today.